Monday, January 12, 2009

Hancock Square, Northern Liberties, Philadelphia

Of the many projects born from Philadelphia's recent boom in high-end residential construction, Hancock Square in Northern Liberties is easily my favorite. The development, led by Tower Investments and designed by Erdy-McHenry Architects, replaces one of several large empty lots left over from the demolition of the Schmidt's brewery. The first phase, a 6-story building along North 2nd Street was completed a few years ago. Phase two, to be completed in the coming months, includes two 7-story residential buildings on the other side of the block along Hancock Street and Germantown Avenue, a 7-story office tower, and a public plaza in between.

The first building itself (pictured at top) is already easily the most iconic of any structure built in Northern Liberties in the last few decades. Steeped in Modernist chic, its colored wall panels and Mondrian-esque windows are clearly reminiscent of Le Corbusier's landmark Unite d'Habitation. Nonetheless, it does so while avoiding the great pitfalls of Modernist urban design. Each of the buildings meets the sidewalk with ample ground-floor retail space, and the courtyard plaza will be clearly visible and accessible from the street when completed.

Furthermore, the ovular glass office tower promises to be just as iconic as its neighbors, and also ceritfy Hancock Square a true mixed-use development. Last but not least, the complex as a whole builds out at a perfectly "Parisian" density, which provides a welcome medium between the rowhomes and skyscrapers that for the most part characterize Philadelphia.

(Construction photos were taken in late-december)

Photo credit, top photo: Timothy Hursley for Architectural Record feature.

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